The Aligarh Muslim University vice chancellor on Tuesday came under attack over his controversial remarks regarding the access of undergraduate girls to a varsity library with HRD Minister Smriti Irani having termed the matter an “insult to daughters”.
AMU VC Zameer Uddin Shah courted controversy as he turned down a demand of students of the varsity’s Women’s College for access to its main library, saying there would be “more boys” in the library if girls were allowed there.
Taking a strong view of the matter, Irani said, “There are some reports which hurt you as a woman and also agitate you that when we attained freedom there was a belief that education and constitutional rights were same for all… And now we get reports that amounts to an insult to daughters.”
Joining the chorus of disapproval over Shah’s comment, Minority Affairs Minister Najma Heptullah said his statement was “appalling” even as the new MoS in the Ministry, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, averred that such remarks are “in bad taste and not acceptable in a civilised society”.
“I do find it appalling, especially on the day of Maulana Azad’s birth anniversary… 62 years ago, Azad focussed on girls’ education… I am really surprised. This day, somebody talks like that as the head of an institution, it is shocking,” Heptullah said.
The AMU has cited space constraints for not allowing access to the library to the said students while refuting the charge of having a “sexist approach”. But Heptullah said that the vice chancellor should take steps for expanding the library so that more girls can be accommodated.
Social Justice Minister Thaawar Chand Gehlot said, “Prohibiting somebody from going (to the library) is not right. Arrangements should be made so that all students can go to the library.”
Terming Shah’s statement as “regressive and antediluvian”, National Commission for Women chief Lalitha Kumaramangalam wondered if it was “legal for them (AMU) to bar any student from accessing such services in a university”.
All India Democratic Women’s Association general secretary Jagmati Sangwan termed Shah’s statement ‘unfortunate’ and called for action against people making such remarks.
Reactions also poured in from corporates with Biocon chief Kiran Mazumdar Shaw saying in a tweet, “AMU’s Curbs on Women Using Library is a slur on system”.
Union Minister Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti also criticised the decision, saying it reflected “anti-women mentality” of the university authority.
“Restricting entry of girl students in library of a Central university reflects that the university authority maintains anti-women mentality,” said the Minister of State for Food Processing Industries while talking to reporters in Lucknow.
“Women of all sections of the society have freedom to get educated and progress. They should get equal opportunity,” she said.